I really don’t know very much about beer, far less than I should considering that some level of knowledge has been part of my job description for the last 2 decades. Mostly I’ve either bluffed my way through a conversation or straight out admitted to relative ignorance (a lot of people simply want to be reassured they’ve made a good choice of product in which case a confidant yes is a reasonable bluff. Anything more detailed than that calls for honesty).
The reason for this is that I don’t really drink beer in any of its forms, and if I’m buying it, it’s almost certainly to be cooked with where either the recipe will tell me what I want, or I have a good idea of the flavour profile or abv I want. Last week I stayed with a friend who’s serious about his beer making though, and he had made a Christmas ale which was amazing. Rich, dark, malty, spiced, and with a touch of chilli and ginger to warm it up, drinking it was both a revelation and a reminder.
The revelation was how much I liked it, the reminder was that smaller bottles are now a thing and that it’s perfectly possible to split a bottle and drink it from goblet type glasses rather than by the pint (my issue with beer has always been about quantity, a pint being almost always more than I want). The range of beers available on the high street has changed a lot whilst I’ve been working with them too.
There’s been a lot of innovation with a whole range of flavour profiles which would have sounded outlandish when I was starting out (I’m thinking of things like Black Sheep’s Pineapple Milkshake IPA at the moment, which does taste of pineapple and is also excellent) but means there’s a whole lot of new routes to finding the right beer for you.
I bought the Simon Armitage translation of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ last year thinking it would be great winter reading - but never got round to it. I’ve pulled it off the shelf again with more good intentions, and can’t help but think reading it by a warm fire (or at least some flickering candles) with a glass of warmly spiced Christmas ale (or a mulled ale) would really add to the winter’s tale atmosphere.
I also think a bit of poetry is a brilliant Christmas present - it’s too seldom the sort of thing we buy ourselves, a bit of a push is no bad thing here. I’ve got a handful of plays and poetry books I’d never have looked at if they hadn’t been presents which would have been very much my loss.
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